Perhaps a good way of describing the Shed restaurant in Kensington, is that it is bit like Polpo for Middle England.
You see, this cosy little place near Notting Hill Gate is doing the whole small sharing plate for just about reasonable prices thing, with those plates being served by young, not-bad-looking wait staff, in a room full of reclaimed materials and closely packed tables.
Except for vaguely Venetian, read vaguely modern British; for tattooed, just-been-shagged-hair waiters, read respectable plaid shirts and hair firmly tied back; and for NYC themed light fittings and salvaged diner signs, read second hand pitch forks, and wine glasses hanging from the bonnet of a John Deere tractor. It’s a little bit quirky, informal but comfortable; a fun place for a meal.
I’ve seen that some reviews of the Shed exist, but I’ve not read them yet. I imagine a few of those question whether small sharing plates are a bit too 2010 for a restaurant that opened at the end of 2012. I wouldn’t agree – so long as the food is done well, the format isn’t really an issue (and the Shed is really not too ‘trendy’; you’re able to make reservations for a start). As the two brothers who cook at and run the Shed source their ingredients from their younger brother, a farmer in Sussex, and other suppliers from that county, they certainly start their food offering from an admirable position.
Those ingredients are prepared an eclectic way and the menu reads well. After a selection of ‘mouthfuls’, the food broadly falls into slow and fast cooking categories. Amongst the slow cooking category are tempting sounding dishes such as duck leg, spelt barley and blood orange; cuttlefish, almonds and sweet chilli beans; and good old steak and kidney pudding. On the night I was there, fast cooking options included grilled lamb, purple sprouting and anchovy dressing, and pork loin, beetroot and rosemary salsa. Looking at their most recent menu online (it changes daily), I’m impressed by their use of the whole animal, evident from the inclusion in the ‘fast’ section, of pig’s spleen, bacon and tomato paprikash.
Unfortunately the actual delivery of the food didn’t quite live up to my hopes and expectations.
A sardine roll mop ‘mouthful’ was nicely soused, but beetroot, goats cheese and pear jam was barely a match for one Tyrrells’ crisp, and is maybe something that should be served as a free table snack, rather than a £1.50 bite, if at all. Spiced pork patties and tahini were fine, but had had dried out a touch too much; and that duck leg, blood orange and spelt barley dish wasn’t the success that it could have been, probably due to the small quantities of duck and orange, too delicate a hand on the seasoning, and overcooked spelt, which sucked up what flavours were there.
To be fair, those were the weakest of the dishes that we had, and the others were perfectly enjoyable, if not revelatory: a rustic raviolo of braised pheasant leg on a bed of kale and cream was the best savoury course of the night, brawn terrine was good, and grilled strips of venison served on a carrot rosti and madeira jus, would have been banging if the meat lived up to the strong flavours of its accompaniments. The highlight of the evening came at the end of the meal in the form of pear tatin with poppy seed and burnt butter ice cream. The tatin was good, but the ice cream was the star.
The meal probably suffered in comparison to some really excellent and interesting food ‘small plates’ that I’d had at the relaunched John Salt in Islington, just two nights before, and a cracking, thoroughly modern British Sunday lunch at the Drapers Arms, also in Islington, four days later. But, then, many meals would compare unfavourably to those, and two of us walked out of the Shed having eaten just enough in a fun environment, for £10 less than the average restaurant spend in London. Which is not to be sniffed at, even on cold days such as these.
The comparison with Polpo is perhaps a little off kilter. Rather, the Shed is basically a new version of Bumpkin, just with small sharing plates. Which is a better option for the locals than another meal at Pizza Express or a limp D&D outlet. East of Oxford Circus, it would probably go down as badly as an upturned collar and a Jack Wills gilet. But sat on the East edge of the black hole of decent, reasonably priced, independent restaurants that is Kensington and Notting Hill, it’ll do just fine.
The Shed in 3 words
Well intentioned. Cosy.
Including a shared £13 carafe of chardonnay, two of us paid £35 a head, having eaten just enough food.
www.theshed-restaurant.com – 122 Palace Gardens Terrace, W8 4RT – 02072294024